A Novel Meta-Integrative Platform for Effective Disaster Management

A Novel Meta-Integrative Platform for Effective Disaster Management

Srikanth Venkatesan (Victoria University, Australia), Abbas Rajabifard (University of Melbourne, Australia), Nelson Lam (University of Melbourne, Australia), Emad Gad (Swinburne University of Technology, Australia), Helen Goldsworthy (University of Melbourne, Australia) and Ged Griffin (University of Melbourne, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6948-0.ch003

Abstract

Disaster management is recognized as a complex task. Despite current facilities and advancements, each disaster continues to frustrate the government and the community. Well-known issues include lack of awareness, direction, preparation and planning, response, recovery, and policy vacuum, besides many other factors. Other issues include emerging drivers of change such as globalization, climate change, technology, social construct, global finance, and education. Despite the recognition of such complex issues, the pace of disaster management strategies seems to be inadequate. This is mainly due to the lack of an approach that can integrate the myriad of issues with the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders such as governments, practitioners, and the community. This chapter identifies a spatially enabled platform as a tool to overcome the aforementioned issues. A preliminary roadmap with “stakeholder position” as the central point of integration is presented. It is anticipated that the roadmap will provide governments and decision makers with the direction needed for future planning.
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Background

Figure 1 presents the increase in number of disasters worldwide since the 1900’s (Source: EM-DAT http://www.emdat.be/country-profile). The increasing trend since the 1900’s and the more significant upward trend around the 1980’s are apparent. Some critics argue that since the 1980’s disaster information has been well documented leading to the upward trend. Despite this criticism, many events require no reference to the readers: e.g. the devastating tsunami in 2004 that damaged most Asian coastlines, the Fukushima disaster in 2011, bushfires in Australia, hurricane Katrina and the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Apart from the financial damage and loss of lives, disasters leave a huge emotional imprint on the survivors. Although most governments have developed new frameworks, action plans and forming apex bodies of national disaster or emergency management, most of the challenges and issues remain unresolved.

Figure 1.

Trends in natural disasters between 1900 and 2011

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Challenges And Issues In Disaster Management

One of the foremost issues to be highlighted is the scale of disasters in relation to management aspects. Mener (2007) mentions that during the 9/11 attacks, the emergency responses were effective even though there was significant confusion and chaos. On the contrary events such as hurricane Katrina and Andrew left the system paralysed and ineffective. A much higher scale of devastation can be attributed to the 2004 tsunami and the Fukushima event. A particular coastal town in the Southern part of India was almost wiped out due to the 2004 tsunami. Local authorities had to seek help from state and central government services. The situation was so unbearable and overwhelming that even some well-trained relief workers and some volunteers needed counselling, as many have not experienced such situations in the past (ST060088, 2013). Nine years on the town has recovered and normal life seems to be in order. However plans or preparations to face and overcome a similar disaster (if exposed) are not widely publicised. Similar situations exist in the neighbouring country of Sri Lanka as well. The enduring image of a house swept to sea (flashed widely in the media) post the Fukushima disaster clearly captured our inability to cope with mega scale disasters. It is not our intention to criticise a country or a government but the scale of a disaster can sometimes be so large and overwhelming that even technologically and operationally advanced countries have problems coping with the challenges.

Apart from the scale of disasters which is beyond our control, we analyse the challenges in disaster management from the perspectives of three key stakeholders: governments (includes all levels such as central, state and local), practitioners (includes academics, researchers and responders) and the community (includes individuals, families, social groups and business groups). Although there is an overlap between the three key stakeholder positions or multiple representations; we define the stakeholder position in relation to the role, responsibility and expectation of an individual.

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